ALEXANDRIA, VA – Aspen-Pitkin County Airport Director and American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE) Chair Jim Elwood, A.A.E., testifying today before the House aviation subcommittee, called on Congress to enact a multi-year FAA reauthorization bill early this year that delivers a much-needed increase in the maximum passenger facility charge (PFC) and boosts Airport Improvement Program (AIP) funding to fund critical airport projects.
Elwood pointed out that it has been well over a year since the last FAA reauthorization bill expired. Although Congress has passed a series of short-term extensions since then, he noted that an anticipated traffic rebound requires a more stable funding stream if the industry is going to prepare adequately.
"Airports appreciate the successful efforts to extend FAA programs and prevent lapses in aviation excise taxes. However, extensions and uncertain funding levels can be very disruptive to airports as they try to plan their construction projects," Elwood told the committee in written testimony. "Airports need to prepare for the long term when more than 1 billion passengers are expected to be flying by 2016. Even if that threshold is delayed by a year, we must continue to plan ahead."
Elwood noted that airports support a number of provisions included in The Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act of 2009 (H.R. 915) that Democratic lawmakers introduced on Monday. Among them: an increase in PFC cap to $7.00, a $100 million per year boost in AIP funding, at least $200 million per year in Essential Air Service program funding, $35 million per year for the Small Community Air Service Development program, and retention of the $150,000 general aviation airport entitlement.
The increased PFC cap and boost in AIP funding would help airports move forward on key safety, capacity and capital improvement programs, Elwood said. The PFC increase alone could mean an additional $1.3 billion per year in funding, which would help close some of the gap between airport capital needs and the amount of revenue that is currently available for airport capital development, he noted.
Elwood urged the subcommittee to boost the PFC cap to $7.50, to help offset construction cost inflation. He also advocated indexing future PFC caps to construction costs.
Elwood added that airports remain concerned about a provision in the bill that could force airports to comply with comply with excessive National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standards. The proposed standards for Airport Rescue and Firefighting (ARFF) would dramatically increase airport infrastructure and equipment costs with little benefit in terms of enhanced safety. This could lead to the loss of commercial air service at some smaller airports around the country.
"At first glance, the proposal may seem like a reasonable approach," Elwood said of the revised ARFF standards. "Upon closer review, however, it is clear that it would have a huge impact on large and small airports without demonstrating a clear safety benefit."
To view Elwood’s written testimony click here.